I looked at how to start learning about Robotic Process Automation (RPA) when I realised RPA was an in-demand skill with great career prospects. I read a lot of the good things happening with RPA and how it was being embraced by many companies.
How do I start learning RPA? To learn RPA, you must start learning the basics of Robotic Process Automation first before any RPA tools are used. Learning the RPA basics will make it easier to learn and understand how RPA fits together with it’s different recording and screen scraping technology and what the limitations are with each of the options.
Learning RPA isn’t as difficult as it first seems and by following the right course of action, learning can be done quite quickly. I found the learning curve for RPA not as steep as with other technologies I’d looked at learning before and this kept me highly motivated in learning more and more about RPA.
To speed up trying to learn RPA, the following 9 tips can help, as they have helped me.
1. Understand the RPA basics
As with anything new, it’s best to get with the RPA basics first and once these RPA basics are fully understood, progress can be made to more advanced aspects of RPA.
I didn’t jump straight into trying to learn how to use the RPA software as this would have just tied me up in knots, as I would only have partially understood what I was learning.
I would have also spent more time adopting this approach as I would have to keep stopping my learning to find out about some new concept the RPA software introduced.
Low Learning Curve
The Good news is the learning curve required to learn RPA is relatively low in comparison with other popular technologies, making RPA an ideal career pathway for many people to choose.
This low learning curve made it easier to me to maximise what I could learn in the shortest possible time without having to divert away to find out more information about something introduced in my RPA learning materials, that I didn’t fully understand.
This was great, as previously I’d tried to learn other technologies with a steeper learning curve, only to struggle to grasp what was supposed to be the basics but was actually a lot more complicated than I originally thought. I’d spend hours to understand the basics, running myself around in knots, as I searched on the internet to get answers to the basics.
With my time learning about RPA, I found I spent less time if any, trying to read around the subject. The courses I used, explained exactly what I needed to know, in an easy to understand format. Meaning I spent less time learning to get up to a good level of RPA knowledge.
No prerequisites to get started
There are no real prerequisites to start learning about RPA, that is, you don’t have to learn something else first before you can successfully start to learn about RPA.
There is no math skills or programming experience required to get going and better still none of these is required to get to a basic level of proficiency in RPA.
This is what I really love about RPA as the companies that provide this technology have made large investments to ensure the RPA technology can be used by normal people without having to have complicated technical skills first.
Yes, there are complicated tasks in RPA that will require some programming knowledge but these tasks are only for advanced RPA users and not required to learn the basics of RPA.
Are you new to RPA, find out What is RPA? I have created this article with essential information you need to know.
2. Choose a good RPA course
Choosing a good RPA course makes it easier to learn as I found out, as the course I chose didn’t overwhelm me with technical mumbo jumbo. Instead, the course had a well-laid structure, gently taking me into various aspects of RPA in a controlled and measured way.
Some of the other RPA courses I had seen were created by people who didn’t know how to break down the RPA technology into easy to digest understandable chunks.
The last thing I wanted to do was waste the limited time I had, trying to learn something that was straightforward that had been dressed up to be more complicated than it was.
3. Learn using RPA software
I progressed from learning about the fundamentals of RPA to actually putting them into practice by using the RPA software from the market-leading experts on Robotic Process Automation. By actually using the RPA software to automate manual tasks, I found it much easier to learn how to do RPA type things.
The more I learnt about using the RPA software and automating more and more manual task, the more confident I became in my abilities and my confidence as someone who knows what RPA is and is able to do RPA type activities.
I think without spending time using an RPA software, will end up making it more difficult to grasp important concepts required to progress to a reasonable standard of skills with RPA.
FREE RPA Software
You don’t need to spend any money getting hold of a decent RPA software as many of the RPA vendors provide trial versions with one of the most popular RPA software being available as a FREE community edition with no trial period albeit limited functionality but enough functionality I found for me to learn and use the RPA software.
4. Practice RPA with what you know
To speed up learning, I used the FREE RPA software to automate many manual technical tasks I did. This allowed me to put my RPA software skills to use with doing something I already knew how to do, but now I could get the RPA software to do it automatically for me by running its automation.
I used the RPA software to automate my banking reconciliation I did at the end of every month and also to automate a security check I do on websites to make sure they are safe to use.
Step 1. Click on the address bar next in the web browser
Step 2. Highlight the name of the website in the address bar (manually done by holding the Control Key and the ‘A’ key together)
Step 3. Copy the address of the website (manually done by holding the Control Key and the ‘C’ key together)
Step 4. Open another web browser tab and visiting a security website
Step 5. Paste the address of the website obtained in step 4 into the correct input field on the security website (manually done by holding the Control Key and the ‘V’ key together)
Step 6. Press the submit button on the security website
Step 7. Put in the business logic to look for an alert (more on the business logic in the next section).
Automating these steps doesn’t seem to be a good idea as they are simple steps that can be done manually and yes they can but these steps once automated will always be repeated exactly like the first time they were repeated.
So if I’m tired and I miss a step doing this manually, the RPA software with its automation will never miss out a step and will always do it the same again and again and again.
5. Learn RPA Business logic
Once the basics of how to use the RPA software are mastered, the next step is to look at understanding how business logic can be used, to make automation a little bit smarter.
This isn’t as complicated as it sounds, as the business logic in many of the RPA software is more click and select instead of requiring hardcore programming.
I was amazed at how easily I was able to apply business logic to the automation I’d created using the RPA software.
So if I was automating how I set up a spreadsheet application to create worksheets, with correct formatting, the first bit of business logic the RPA software would need to determine would be:
Is the spreadsheet application available?
That is, has the spreadsheet application being launched by clicking on its shortcut on the menu? If it hasn’t been already launched then the first task would be to launch the spreadsheet application.
This is simple logic and doesn’t require complicated programming to work out in an RPA software, a condition is set to check and if that condition is true (the check reports the spreadsheet application hasn’t been launched), then the resulting step is undertaken, that is, in this case, launch the spreadsheet application.
6. Learn from RPA Forums
There will invariably come a time when you will get stuck in understanding something RPA related and when this happened to me, I reached out to the forums. I chose the forum provided by the company that made the RPA software I was learning using.
I look at if other people on the forums had experienced the same issues I was experiencing and if so, what help had they been given. As the same help could me understand where I was going wrong.
Nine times out of ten, this was an effective approach to solve the majority of the problems I came across, but that one time out of ten would require a different approach.
This different approach just involved posting my own question on the forum (after signing up to the forum first) and then waiting for someone to come up information that could solve the problem I was facing.
7. Learn from RPA peers
I’ve always found surrounding myself with people who know more than me, helps me learn from them and build up my own skills and experiences.
Likewise, surrounding myself with RPA proficient people has helped me immensely. I regularly attend RPA events like meetups in my local area and get to meet varying degrees of RPA skilled individuals.
Some of these RPA professionals are great to talk to and ask for help in understanding areas of Robotic Process Automation I may be having trouble with.
Over time I have found some of these professionals really good sources of tips and tricks, helping me learn things I could never have thought of learning.
8. Find time to learn RPA
When learning anything new, time is required to do the study and sometimes with certain things being learnt, finding time itself becomes an obstacle.
Fortunately, with RPA, I found as learning about it didn’t require me to spend hours continually trying to learn, finding the time to learn was so easy. I managed to squeeze in an hour a day before I went to work by popping into a coffee shop and just immersing myself into the world of RPA.
I had the RPA software installed on my laptop and would run through a couple of different automation tasks each morning. Then on the way back from work, I had about forty-five minutes worth of commuting time on the train, which I also used to use the RPA software.
All in all, this was enough time to keep me going and learning, allowing me to build up my skills in RPA.
9. Keep learning RPA
I haven’t stopped learning about RPA and keep on learning new things so I’m always at the cusp of RPA knowledge. I’ve immersed myself into the world of RPA and really enjoy learning because I want to learn and I’m not being forced to learn. This is important as it means I’m always motivated to learn and don’t have to pick myself up to get going.
By continually learning what’s happening in RPA, keep the knowledge fresh in my mind and I end up retaining it longer. I’m not a fan of cramming information and by learning a little here and a little there allows me to keep learning.
In conclusion, starting to learn about RPA needs to look at first learning about the fundamentals of RPA and once these have been understood.
Learning about how to apply these in the real world to manual tasks you already do, by automating them using an RPA software is vital. As it will exponentially increase how much can be learnt by doing RPA tasks.
Is RPA easy to learn? Yes, RPA is easy to learn and not too difficult. I found RPA one of the easiest technologies I’ve ever learnt and it took me next to no time to get a good understanding of the technology involved. I just needed basic technical skills, that normal people would use every day, meaning getting started was easy.
Is RPA a niche skill? Yes, RPA is a niche skill and rapidly making inroads into many organisations. Meaning the demand of people with RPA skills is on the increase however, there just isn’t enough RPA knowledgeable people available to fill the skills gap.